I’m a male reader, but I sneaked a peek at Heidi Newberg’s “The Woman Physicist’s Guide to Speaking” (Physics Today, February 2005, page 54). I especially liked her advice that during the question-and-answer session you should “make sure you understand the question—sometimes by repeating it.” This is particularly important when speaking to the lay public and in spaces with poor acoustics.

As an amateur astronomer who occasionally gives public talks, I have in mind two speaking aids not mentioned in Newberg’s guide: humor and enthusiasm. Although it sometimes requires imagination, opening with a witty quip or humorous anecdote can focus your audience’s attention. As for enthusiasm, after content it is the most important ingredient in any talk. For keeping your audience glued to the presentation, nothing works better than radiating genuine enthusiasm.